Answer/Elder LeGrand Richards
My answer would be that the falling away was not necessary for the salvation of man, for if the Church established by the Savior and his apostles had remained upon the earth, there would thus be proper authority from the Lord to administer the saving ordinances of the gospel, and hence there would have been no need of a restoration.
But since there was a falling away, and there was no longer any priesthood or divine authority upon the earth to administer the saving ordinances of the gospel, then a restoration was the only way that such authority could be found upon the earth.
The fact that there was a falling away does not mean that there were no churches upon the earth. It simply means that there were no churches with divine authority and hence no man authorized to perform any of the saving ordinances of the gospel.
The holy scriptures are replete with statements to the effect that there would be a falling away from the original church that Jesus established. When John the Revelator was banished upon the Isle of Patmos, the angel of the Lord said: “Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter.” (Rev. 4:1.) He showed him the power that would be given to Satan to make war with the saints (and the saints were the members of the Church of Christ), and to overcome them, and to reign over every nation, kindred, tongue, and people. (See Rev. 13:7.) Now that obviously meant that the Church established by the Savior had been completely overcome and hence there had been a falling away.
Then the angel showed John an angel flying in the midst of heaven, “having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people.” (Rev. 14:6.) Obviously the everlasting gospel was the only gospel that could save men. Then John adds: “Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.” (Rev. 14:7.)
As further evidence of the falling away, at the time that Joseph Smith received his glorious vision demonstrating the fact that the Father and the Son were two separate, glorified personages, the entire Christian world was worshiping a god without body, parts, or passions. That means he couldn’t see because he had no eyes; he couldn’t hear because he had no ears; he couldn’t speak because he had no mouth. Hence they were following the teachings of men rather than the everlasting truths of the gospel.
Now Moses knew that this condition would prevail, for when he went to lead the children of Israel into the promised land, he told them that they would not remain there long but that they would be scattered among the nations (see Deut. 4:26–27), and he told them this: “And there ye shall serve gods, the work of men’s hands, wood and stone, which neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell.” (Deut. 4:28.) Now that is exactly the kind of god that the Christian world was worshiping when Joseph Smith had his glorious vision.
But Moses didn’t leave it at that. He indicated that if Israel would seek after him in the latter days (and he specifically mentions the latter days) they would surely find him. (See Deut. 4:29–30.) The Prophet Joseph Smith sought after him and thus obtained a knowledge of the true and living God to which the angel referred, “who made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.” (Rev. 14:7.)
When the apostles of the Savior asked him for the signs of his second coming and the end of the world, he told them of the wars and pestilences and earthquakes that would come, and then he said: “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” (Matt. 24:14.) Now, obviously, he was referring to the gospel that he and his disciples had been preaching.
Another scripture that evidences that there should be a complete restoration is found in the 29th chapter of Isaiah, verses 13–14 [Isa. 29:13–14]:
“Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men:
“Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid.”
Now it is obvious that the Lord would not need to do a marvelous work and a wonder among the children of men if his gospel had remained upon the earth, but he indicates the reason for establishing this marvelous work and a wonder was because they would be teaching the precepts or doctrines of men. That is what one finds today in all of the so-called Christian churches, and that evidences the need of a restoration.
Following the day of Pentecost, Peter, in talking to those who had put the Christ to death, made this statement:
“Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.
“And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you:
“Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.” (Acts 3:19–21.)
We are the only church in the world that claims a restitution of all things, and if Peter was a true prophet, no one can look for the return of the Savior, according to the many promises contained in the scriptures, until there should be such a restitution, and that is not a reformation. And so we declare unto the whole world that there has been a restitution or restoration of all things spoken by the mouth of all the holy prophets who have again visited this earth and brought back the keys and authority of the holy priesthood and the power to administer the saving ordinances of the gospel.